For years now, politicians the world over have been accusing the media of being negative—carefree critics, totally devoid of positive proposals. It was one Spiro Agnew, a better-known American at the time, who crowned this criticism with caustic comment about the “nattering nabobs of negativism,” or somesuch. Anyway, a big bunch of N-words.
So, it’s time to be journalistically positive, to offer helpful suggestions to our beleaguered politicians who, according to one survey, rate just slightly ahead of used-car salesmen in the most-trusted category. The rating for journalists is...oh, to hell with it.
We must start by recognizing the fact that we have a political problem in this country, a big one. What we have learned, through a zillion public opinion polls, is that we’re not infatuated with any of our political leaders and that, in varying degrees, we crave for a new cast of characters. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, we’re told, is the most unpopular leader in the history of Canadian polling. Jean Chrétien and his Liberals, we’re told, is simply the least disliked in an unlikable lot. The New Democrats’ Audrey McLaughlin, and her followers, are in there somewhere.
The whole political process is in disrepute, the country in anger. There hasn’t been a giggle on Parliament Hill since 150 fiddlers turned up to protest the axing of Don Messer’s Jubilee— except, perhaps, for that announcement about opening an immigration office in Vegreville, Alta.
What we need, rather desperately, is an infusion of new leaders, new followers and, above all, some political fun. We’ve had enough.
So how do we do it? Easy. Party officials get together and agree that, every four years, on the same weekend, in the same city, all will hold simultaneous leadership conventions. None of these feckless questions like “Do you
Allan Fotheringham is on vacation.
A Political Olympics could feature stars we’d never normally see—right-wing opera singers, socialist sumo wrestlers, you name it
favor a leadership review?” No, the real thing. We’ll be the first country in the world to stage Political Olympics. Right off the bat, we solve the problem of leaders who don’t want to be perceived as quitters. If they wanted to rerun, they could, but we’d be under no obligation to re-elect them. Anyone could enter; generally speaking, democracy works well in these cases.
And think of the fun, not to mention the economic benefits. Imagine 10,000 delegates, all decked out in their team colors, Tory blue, Liberal red, NDP orange, Reform whatever, invading the host town, say, Comer Brook or Cranbrook. Why, there would even be Olympic villages springing up, along with rinks and other convention facilities to accommodate all official federal parties.
Since this would be an international first, there would be hundreds of television crews from around the world, hopping back and forth among the various Olympic sites. Obviously there would be acute competition among the parties to provide the best entertainment, thus bringing in stars and celebrities we’d never normally see. Right-wing opera singers, socialist sumo wrestlers, you name it.
There could be marvellous innovations—
such as having Brian Mulroney appear at a Liberal “bearpit session,” while Jean Chrétien tackled the Tories and Audrey McLaughlin tried to rattle the Reformers. The Bloc Québécois...well, we’ll think of something.
Before the voting, there would be demonstrations galore, all in the true Olympic spirit. Marching bands would fill the streets, competing for attention, and prizes.
There could be off-convention betting, bringing in bountiful bucks. What are the odds of Sheila Copps defeating Pierre Berton? Or Marcel Masse knocking off David Suzuki? Or Bob White edging out Conrad Black?
Naturally, New Democratic Party candidates, following tradition, would be wired for sound. That way, TV viewers would not only learn what candidate those delegates favored, but who influenced them. It would also eliminate those inane questions about “just what was going through your mind as you walked to the polling booth?”
There would be extravagant opening and closing ceremonies, complete with torch lighting and torch dousing. The present leaders would almost certainly want to run the flame for the last mile or two. A free-for-all debate involving all leaders would be a closing feature. And think about the excitement when the Governor General, a reasonable choice for games commissioner, would announce the site for the next Political Olympics. Every town worth an official post office would be bidding for the honor.
Let’s get semi-serious here and, at the very least, think about it—if for no other reason than replacing the traditional Grey Cup blowout with a Canadian event. The winners might even be invited to Rideau Hall, like the Toronto Blue Jays. That would constitute another new Canadian event.
You know, if this great Canadian caper ever gets off the ground, it could develop into a virtual epidemic of Olympic nationalism. The provinces wouldn’t waste any time following the federal lead and, if money were to be made, would develop their own mini-Olympics. We’d soon have these sporting events springing up all over the country. Would-be leaders might welcome the opportunity to display their skills in other competitions, such as downhill bowling or constitutional Trivial Pursuit. Heaven knows that the provinces, like Ottawa, need light relief. And they’ve also been known to have problems with hanging-on-too-long leaders.
At the risk of offending most of Canada, let’s suggest Toronto as the first site for the Political Olympics. Not only does that city suffer from a severe case of Olympian inferiority complex, from repeated rejections, but it also has that funny tower. We could not only have Brian Mulroney run up the stairs with the torch but, as you know, Jean Chrétien has been expressing an interest in bungee jumping, just to prove his physical fitness. What an opportunity!
As for Ms. McLaughlin, well, just as with the Bloc Québécois, we’ll think of something.
Stewart MacLeod is Ottawa columnist for Thomson News Service.
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